Beth Habian had no plans to make the Lane Community College (LCC) Florence Center tick. Just four years ago, she was an administrative support specialist in the front office, taking phone calls one day a week.
Now the head administrative specialist for the campus, Habian was awarded the LCC Employee Recognition Program award, the highest honor the college gives administrative employees.
In a packed room at the Florence campus last Thursday, Habian was given her certificate surrounded by faculty, staff, main campus administrators, students and friends.
Habian was humble about the recognition, simply stating, “It’s nice that somebody from Florence could be recognized.”
To the recollection of Russ Pierson, dean of the Florence Center, no administrator had ever been officially recognized by the main campus before.
In Pierson’s mind, it couldn’t have happened to a better employee.
“She’s awesome,” Pierson said. “I sometimes describe her as the real power behind the throne and I’m just an ugly figure-head in the community. She has a great capacity for administrative excellence.”
The award is culled from the 325 administrative employees who work in campuses across the LCC system. Coworkers nominate individuals for the award, which the dean of each campus certifies.
Habian’s responsibilities at the campus are vast. From employee issues, financial considerations for classes, community outreach, supporting the dean, solving complex administrative issues, catering meetings and an innumerable amount of other tasks, many LCC Florence employees feel Habian is responsible for making the campus a success.
Reading from comments about Habian the staff had provided, Pierson said, “She is the go-to person for all kinds of questions. She goes beyond in all she does. I can tell you that the Florence campus would not be the same without her, and I believe she should be recognized for the fantastic work that she does.”
Habian’s education and knowledge goes well beyond her time at the campus, according to her sister and interim administrative support specialist at LCC, Cindy Swoboda.
“In the family we always call her a walking dictionary because she knows everything. Every evening, when Jeopardy comes on, she knows all the answers. And the weirdest answers, too. They’ll just pop out of her head,” Swoboda said.
Habian has called Florence home since 2000.
Originally from Sacramento and the Bay area, she found housing in California to be too expensive.
Plus, it was really hot there.
As her parents settled on Florence to retire, she happily followed.
She didn’t come without a job, however. Since 1994 she’s been the features editor of the print publication International Travel News, a job she did online. In fact, she still does that, working days at LCC and journeying home to get right back on the computer to edit stories.
“I don’t sleep much,” said admitted.
Habian first started at LCC to break up her at-home work routine, manning the front office phones one day a week.
The administrative specialist position opened just a short time afterward, which she filled in as an interim. Soon, she took over the job officially and has stayed there ever since.
“I really like working here. It’s stressful, but in a good way. It’s nice to be able to help the students to succeed. Everybody here is on the same team, keeping the students in mind,” Habian said
Because Florence is a rural location, Habian believes LCC is vital to opening options to higher education that would otherwise be limited.
“I’m surprised at just how much this campus means to people in this area, more-so than a big city. I’m always surprised at how many times students come in and say, ‘Thank you for the encouragement,’ or ‘Thank you for helping and answering the questions,’ because they don’t have outside support,” she said.
That, Habian believes, is what makes working at LCC worthwhile, despite the little sleep she receives.
“I remember one student coming in and talk to another employee, saying, ‘Thank you so much for telling me I can do this, because nobody in my family told me I could.’ So many people don’t have outside support sometimes. It breaks my heart, but (education) completely changes somebody’s life. That’s what I enjoy about being here,” she said.